Monday, September 9, 2013

More Gender Inequalities - Disney Store and Disney On Ice

I receive Disney Store emails almost daily, admittedly not because I'm on the lookout for a great deal but instead because every now and then one arrives that makes for a good blog post. Today was one of those days.

It's no secret that I have a problem with the Disney Store, specifically the online site, which embraces the stark gender binary that certain products are for boys and others are for girls.  As a girl who had to go into the boy section in stores as a kid to find a Simba tee because he was my favorite character, that left a big impression on me.  Some may be okay with this, and that's fine, but I'm more of an advocate for a more neutral stance on what is "for boys" and what is "for girls."

But even more important to me are the messages associated with these gender stereotypes.  Take today's email subject line as an example:

Costumes for Princess Play and Saving the Day

The title of the email actually fooled me for a moment, as I took it to mean that perhaps the girls were doing some saving for once! Maybe a Mulan or Pocahontas reference, or Rapunzel even saved the day a few times in her story.  Then I opened the email itself and the image cleared up any hope I had right away.  Once again, the title implies passivity of girls and action of boys.  Yes, the girl dressed as Merida is holding a bow but the other two are twirling in glitter and it's obvious that play is their adventure, while boys' adventure is saving the day.

Once more, I understand there is typically a difference in children's choice in Halloween costumes to fit their gender.  But the message that the girls are only there to play but the real heroes are the boys is what I have a problem with.

Along the same lines is another example I've been wanting to post for some time. The Disney On Ice show "Princesses and Heroes" also implies that these two are different and that the princesses themselves can't be heroes.  If you have any doubt you can just read the description of the show on the website.

I have not personally seen this show, but from the description I'd anticipate more passivity in store for the princesses while the real heroes are the males.  Prince Eric breaks the spell, Prince Philip defeats Maleficent, etc.  The women are either saved or get to have their dreams come true.  This ignores the fact that many of these princesses were quite active in their stories.  For example, Ariel didn't just sit there and wish to become a human.  She went out and got what she wanted, and when it seemed like her plans were falling apart she did something about that too.

It all just comes across as Disney wanting to ignore the accomplishments and strengths of women and emphasize those of men, and that's just not something they should be doing.  The world is moving on - it would be refreshing if one of the most influential companies in the world could do the same, instead of promoting antiquated ideas for the sake of the dollar.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Quick Thoughts on Club 33's Expansion

Club 33 remains one of the most mysterious places in Disneyland, due to its exclusive members-only admission policy.  Most people familiar with Disneyland have at least heard of it, although they may not know exactly where or what it is.  Built specifically by Walt in New Orleans Square as a place to entertain sponsors and high-profile guests in a classy setting, this functioning restaurant admits guests only by paid admission or reservation by a paying member.  The Club includes many pieces of art and decor picked out by the Disney family or used in films, and has two dining areas: the main dining room and the Trophy Room meant for larger parties.

Rumors have been circling lately about a future renovation and expansion to Club 33 and how it will impact the rest of New Orleans Square.  The expansion includes the Club's own kitchen, which will be extremely beneficial but will also no doubt expand its seating areas as well.  However, I am more interested in how the renovation will affect the reputation Club 33 has built for itself.  As the price to become a member is incredibly steep and there is a lengthy waiting list to get in, there is no question as to why this is taking place.  It will no doubt reduce the waiting list and the more reservations that can be made, the more money it can generate in shorter amounts of time.  

But membership is a key example of a privileged experience at Disneyland.  Just as the average guest cannot afford a full makeover for their child at Bibbity-Bobbity-Boutique, the average guest cannot afford to procure a Club 33 membership.  And this also adds to the mystique, as less people are able to experience a meal there, less people have the chance to share all the details with their friends.  It should be noted that the prevalence of the online communities have reduced the mystique somewhat as photos of the dining rooms and the decor are easy to find simply by Googling Club 33.  But it has always been the exclusiveness that has lead to the draw toward it.

As Disney has officially made the announcement of their decision to expand, outrage has broken out between the two parties involved here: those who are members and those who aren't.  

Those who are members have already paid their dues - they have waited the wait and paid the cash and have the right to feel they have earned the exclusive experience.  Now that it is possible that it may be a simpler (or at least shorter) process to get in, they may feel jaded and frustrated.  They may also be resentful of losing certain elements of the Club they have come to know and love, such as the hidden entrance that is reportedly moving to the Court of Angels area, and a historic tie to Walt, the Trophy Room.  With more and more accepted members getting in on the secret, current members may feel that the experience has been "cheapened," so to speak, to gain more profit by the company.

Those who are not members still feel the mystique that surrounds the Club and in the back of their mind are probably hoping that maybe one day they will somehow be lucky enough to get to experience it, whether through a tour of Disneyland or through someone else who is a member.  But with the changes coming to the Club these people also feel a tie to Walt that is being reduced with the overhaul.  The Trophy Room, especially, is something most people wanted to see someday and now that it will be gone, many have lost the motivation to go as yet another Walt Disney original disappears.  The non-members also experience the disappointment of the seeming "cheapening" of the prestigious image as the floodgates open to waiting paying members.  If the prior level of exclusivity is not there then the draw disappears as well. 

I am interested to see the forthcoming reactions of those in the Disney community when it comes to this subject.  These are my socially-focussed thoughts on the reactions I am currently seeing (and experiencing myself) and wonder how it will all play out once the expansion is completed.  Will the mystique and intrigue still be there as long as the ticket to get into the club is so highly priced? Or will the changes tied to such a sensitive subject as Walt Disney and a larger member base lead to a drop in interest? 

Click here to read more about the announcement.